Creating Educational Opportunity for Maya Children

 
$16,321 $8,179
Raised Remaining
A student in Panabaj wears his new uniform
A student in Panabaj wears his new uniform

In Guatemala, failing gym class means you have to repeat an entire grade. For those students that have no option but to participate in jeans and knock-off crocs or sandals, this can be a problem.

The way we see it, if a student can pass each of his academic classes but gets held back because he didn’t have the right clothes to exercise, then something isn’t quite right. So this past month, as a benefit of our sponsorship project, we supplied 46 students with uniforms and shoes for their physical education class.

According to Johanny, our Primary Education Scholarships Project Manager, “parents who before might have had to purchase shoes and new clothes can now use that money for food for the family.”

Plus, the appropriate gear allows students to perform to the best of their abilities, thus giving them the opportunity to compete in yearly “Olympic Games” held between different schools, municipalities, and departments in Guatemala. If a student is particularly talented at a sport, he or she can join the school team to compete against other schools across the country. For students around Santiago, this is a unique opportunity to see the world outside of their neighborhoods and communities.

We’re hoping that some of our scholarship students this year will be able to join in the Olympics. If the cost is only that of the right shoes and a uniform, we’re happy to help. 

Sponsorship students from Panabaj with supplies
Sponsorship students from Panabaj with supplies

Over the past two months our Primary Education Scholarships project staff has worked tirelessly to equip this year’s selection of scholarship students with the first wave of school supplies, personal support, and medical vouchers that will allow them to stay in school until graduation in October. 

“It’s hard to articulate how valuable this support is for families,” says Johanny Quiejú, our Project Manager. “Imagine that a father goes to cut coffee for a day and earns 15 quetzals, which is all the income that a family will receive, but school supplies cost 150 quetzals for each child.  What do you do if you have three children?” 

It’s a vexing question, and one that parents in Santiago struggle to answer on a daily basis. To mitigate financial pressure on these families, all 108 of our sponsored students this year are benefitting from a three-pronged support system.

First, they receive periodic deliveries of notebooks, pencils, markers, pens, pencil sharpeners, paper, folders, binders, crayons, and othermaterials required by the school. Teachers are actively involved in the deliveries to ensure that they meet the students’ needs as effectively as possible.

Each student also receives an identification card that guarantees free access to medical care at a local health clinic, including the costs of appointments for dental checkups and medications.

Finally, as the year progresses, our staff conducts home visits to all students at risk of dropping out or failing a grade, providing these students and their families with the encouragement that they need to get back on the right track and finish the school year as proud graduates.

With your support, we’re positive that we can translate our resources into a generation of educated, literature children in communities across Guatemala.  Thanks so much for all you do, and we hope you’ll continue to take part in our work. 

Johanny addresses families at our office
Johanny addresses families at our office
A few of our graduates
A few of our graduates

In a region where less than half of the population finishes primary school, it’s a remarkable achievement to graduate the sixth grade. This is especially true in the current year as Roya – a coffee rust spreading across Latin America – continues to devastate the Guatemalan coffee harvest, forcing more and more families to take their children out of school and push them into the workforce.

In the case of Susana Gutierrez, one of our sponsored students, graduating the sixth grade was even harder than usual. Her mother died when she was a baby, leaving Susana alone with her older sister and mostly absent father. All of the family’s financial responsibilities – including the cost of Susana’s education – fell on her older sister, who worked selling handicrafts on the town’s main street.

At the end of fifth grade Susana dropped out of school to help her sister. She made bracelets and earrings to sell at the docks where tourists from towns around lake disembark for day trips through Santiago. On good days, she could make a few dollars to bring home to her sister; most of the time she came back tired and empty-handed.

Midway through the year, however, she decided she didn’t want to spend the rest of her life at the docks. She told her sister that she wanted to go back to school and her sister came to Pueblo a Pueblo to ask if Susana’s sponsor would be interested in renewing her support for Susana’s education. The sponsor agreed, and at the beginning of 2013 Susana started the sixth grade.

She graduated two weeks ago. Alone, Susana stands as a testament to a generation of children capable of making decisions that, while difficult in the short term, produce real dividends down the line. Together, she and her graduating classmates show the power of people the world over to come together and create lasting change in communities in need.

We’re so proud of what these graduates have accomplished. To all of you who have played a part, thanks so much for your generosity. It really has made a difference.

Graduation ceremony
Graduation ceremony
Susana Gutierrez
Susana Gutierrez

In early August, the Child Health and Education program arranged free dental checkups at the local health clinic for scholarship students at Chacayá and Panabaj schools.

It was jarring to see the depth of need. Of the thirty-two students that arrived at the clinic, thirty needed a cavity filled or a tooth pulled. One girl had ten extractions and a few more cavities filled. Luckily, she was young enough that all of those extracted were primary teeth. Our Water, Santiation, and Hygiene program coordinators will make sure that she receives a toothbrush, toothpaste, and careful instruction about personal hygiene habits before her permanent teeth come in.

As for the students who weren’t able to receive checkups or operations the day of the clinic, the dentist left openings in his schedule for the next few weeks. By the end of September all of them will have received enough care to last through next year, when they’ll have the opportunity to revisit the dentist. 

Along those lines, we’re thankful for our strong relationship with the local clinic. The dental work required at partner schools is far too much to address in a single day, and having an available dentist close by ensures that each student will receive the attention he or she deserves.

Now – in part due to medical checkups like these – nineteen scholarship students will be graduating the sixth grade this October. Most have already stayed in school longer than their parents did, and for those lucky enough to receive continued support from sponsors, the past six years will now serve springboard into new educational opportunities.

These nineteen graduates are a testament to your generosity and ongoing support. Because of you, they have been able to pursue education without sacrificing food or medical attention for the rest of their families.

Moving forward, we’d like to make next year’s graduating class even larger. Please consider donating to give a new grade of students the same educational opportunities that our current graduates enjoyed. It’s amazing how just a few dollars can make the difference between early entrance into the workforce and a high school or university degree. 

Because of your donations students from our Child Education Sponsorship Program (CHE) have been receiving medical checkups as part of the yearly Jornada Medica. It is wonderful to see students waiting eagerly to see their doctor and to hear parents express the benefits these medical visits bring to their children.

The visits are a comprehensive checkup on the child’s health, which allows the doctor to address the illnesses many children face that prevent them from attending school regularly: stomach problems caused by intestinal parasites, scabies, toothaches, earaches, and vision problems. Medications and vitamin supplements are distributed for those that need them as well as referrals for the August dental checkup. During the Jornada CHE also monitors weight and height of each student, which allows us to address malnourishment issues amongst the benefited families.

Healthy bodies translate into healthy minds, allowing students to stay in school longer and pursue new career opportunities. With your support, we will continue to provide these checkups to children in need across the Santiago Atitlan region. All of us – the staff at Pueblo a Pueblo and the children in our program – deeply appreciate your contribution.

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Organization

Project Leader

Rosemary Trent

Executive Director
Cabin John, MD Guatemala

Where is this project located?

Map of Creating Educational Opportunity for Maya Children